War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 6 – May 30, 2017


Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 6
May 30, 2017

James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. To subscribe, please email warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

Opinions expressed in the articles herein represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch staff, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law or Public International Law & Policy Group.




Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo


Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Lake Chad Region — Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon





Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)





Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia





Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine


South America


Truth and Reconciliation Commission



Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives


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United Kingdom’s terror threat level lowered to “severe” in wake of Manchester terror attack

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe 

A vigil is held in central Manchester to honor the victims of Monday’s attack. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom – Five days after the devastating events of May 22 in Manchester, England, British Prime Minister Teresa May lowers the terror threat level from “critical” to “severe”. Wounded survivors are treated by medical staff in hospitals in the city. Families begin the grieving process after losing their loved ones.

It is the aftermath of another terror attack that has shaken the world. This time, during the closing set of American pop star Ariana Grande’s concert at the Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom.

Late Monday night, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in the space between the Manchester Arena and the Victoria train station.

The blast led to the deaths of 22 people, with reports of 59 others left wounded, some critically.

Reports suggest that this is the worst attack in the United Kingdom since the London Underground bombing of 2005.

The concert venue was filled to capacity with Ms. Grande’s fans. The majority of the concertgoers were young women and teenagers. In the aftermath, a nearby hotel opened up its doors for those who were looking for family members.

Though the Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack, this has not been verified. The British authorities continue to investigate and make arrests on those they find were involved in the planning of the attack. As of May 27, 11 people are currently detained in connection with the events.

Terrorism is used as a way to threaten the rights of others through violence and fear. Some have seen this attack as an attack on young women, who were the predominant patrons of the concert. Some find it as a general threat against democracy and individual freedoms.

Yet others are using the events to fuel hate crimes against others as they affiliate terrorism with a specific religion. The Greater Manchester Police told the BBC News on Wednesday that reports on hate crimes doubled from 28 to 56 after Monday’s attack. These included a bomb threat to a school after students were asked if they were Muslim.

Mohammed Ullah, Muslim chaplain of Manchester’s Metropolitan University told the BBC, he “encourage[s] the people to remain undivided.”

Ms. Grande would likely echo this sentiment. Upon her return to the United States, she sent a message out on her Instagram.

“Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and live more kindly and generously than we did before,” she writes.

“We will continue to honor the ones we lost.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Manchester attack: Hate crime ‘doubles’ after incident – 27 May 2017

CBC News – U.K. lowers threat level as 2 more bomb suspects arrested – 27 May 2017

NBC News – Britain’s Terror Threat Level Reduced to ‘Severe’ After Raids Linked to Manchester Bombing – 27 May 2017

The New York Times – The Latest on the Manchester Bombing Investigation – 24 May 2017

Reuters – Twenty in critical condition after Monday’s Manchester bombing – 24 May 2017

CNBC  – Manchester Arena suicide bombing: 22 die at Ariana Grande concert – 23 May 2017

CNN – 22 dead after blast at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester – 23 May 2017

NPR – Why I Think The Manchester Attack Was Aimed At Women And Girls – 24 May 2017

Ariana Grande – Instagram Photo – 26 May 2017 

Syria Deeply: This Week in Syria



May. 26th, 2017






Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

Last Homs evacuations: The final rebel evacuations from al-Waer, the last remaining rebel-held neighborhood in Homs city, were completed over the weekend, giving the Syrian government complete control of the city.

Nearly 3,000 people were bused out of the city, including some 700 fighters and their families, and were transferred to rebel-held areas of Idlib province or the northern Syrian city of al-Jarablus. Homs provincial governor Talal Barazi told AFP that roughly 1,150 fighters chose to stay in the city and hand over their weapons.

Al-Waer has been under a government-imposed siege since 2013. Just two days after the government regained control of Homs, at least four were killed and 32 injured in a car bomb in the al-Zahra neighborhood.

The civilian cost in the fight against ISIS: The U.S.-led coalition ramped up airstrikes in Syria this month and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) closed in on Raqqa in the fight against ISIS. Civilians, however, paid a much higher price.

At least 100 people were killed in airstrikes believed to be carried out by the U.S.-led coalition Thursday night and Friday in al-Mayadin, an ISIS-held town in Deir Ezzor, according to Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Activists also say U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on Wednesday on the village of Baruda, 15 kilometers (9 miles) west of Raqqa, killed at least 16 civilians, many of whom were displaced in the weekend’s evacuation from Homs province.

Coalition airstrikes between April 23 and May 23 killed at least 225 civilians, including 44 children and 36 women, according to SOHR. The Observatory also noted that during this same period coalition actions killed at least 122 ISIS militants and pro-government forces and Syrian government warplanes and helicopters killed at least 146 civilians.

The civilian death toll climbed in tandem with the number of coalition actions in Syria. April saw the highest number of coalition airstrikes in Syria – 548 – since the air campaign against ISIS began in 2014, according to Airways, a monitoring group that tracks civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria.

Four days after solidifying its grip on Homs city, the Syrian army on Thursday said it had gained control of areas south of Palmyra east of Qaryatayn in southeastern Homs province from ISIS. The army also said it killed the militant group’s “minister of war,” Abu Musab al-Masri, in an attack in northern Syria.

Elsewhere in northern Syria, in the town of al-Bab where Turkish-backed forces pushed ISIS out of in February, the contaminated water supply has caused an outbreak of typhoid fever that is “simply beyond the city’s capabilities,” Dr. Mohammad Ismail, who runs a clinic inside the city that is treating some 10-15 new cases a day, told Syria Direct.

Escalation Zone: The Syrian army’s advance on ISIS in Homs province may not be solely to push militants out of the area. The advance brings pro-government forces closer to areas controlled by U.S.-backed rebel fighters in Syria’s southern provinces.

Clashes continued this week between rebels and pro-government forces in the desert area known as the Badia, north of al-Tanf base where the U.S. and U.K. are training Syrian rebel forces fighting ISIS. On Monday, the Free Syrian Army launched a campaign to “cleanse the Badia of Iranian and foreign militias,” according to Syria Direct.

Last week, pro-government forces advance near al-Tanf base on Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan following a rebel operation that cleared ISIS out of the area. In response to the advance, U.S.-led coalition warplanes hit a the pro-government convoy advancing what the Pentagon called “an established de-confliction zone.”

Though the exact coordinates of the four safe zones proposed in Russia, Turkey and Iran’s Astana agreement will only be announced June 4, rebel-held areas of Daraa province were included in “de-escalation” plan. However, on Wednesday, Syrian warplanes and helicopters carried out at least 12 airstrikes and nine barrel bomb attacks on rebel-held parts Daraa city, according to the Associated Press.


Read our daily Executive Summaries




This Week’s Top Articles



Graphic Novels, Games Bring Syrian Refugees’ Stories to New Audiences

Recent mobile app games, comics and graphic novels are seeking to bring refugee voices to the fore through these new mediums for information-sharing and storytelling.



Intrepid Sisters Reveal How ISIS Depends on Role of Women

Two forensic social workers who visit Lebanon’s notorious Roumieh prison gained a rare insight through inmates into the activity of female ISIS supporters, whose roles go far beyond that of wives.




Community Insight



Turkey Is Missing Out on an Opportunity to Integrate Syrian Refugees

Saleem al-Omar,  Freelance Journalist


Syrian refugees in Turkey hoped the ruling AKP party would use their victory in last month’s constitutional referendum to grant citizenship and labor rights to more refugees. So far, they have been sorely disappointed, writes Saleem al-Omar for the Atlantic Council.



The West’s Limited Options to Help Reconstruction in Syria

Steven Heydemann,  Janet Wright Ketcham Professor in Middle East Studies, Smith College


As using reconstruction support as leverage would be unrealistic, Western engagement in Syria’s recovery should focus on shielding programs from the regime and working with trusted local actors, argues Professor Steven Heydemann.



A Syrian Family Reunites: One Flight Away, The Journey of a Lifetime

Mia Bennett,  Researcher, Health and Human Rights Division of Human Rights Watch


In the first of a two-part commentary on family reunification, Bethany Brown of Human Rights Watch and photojournalist Anna Pantelia document a Syrian family’s final days in Greece before heading to Germany to reunite with their father after nearly two years apart.




Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.

Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Planning for Post-Conflict Governance in Raqqa

SJAC Update | May 25, 2017
Syrian Democratic Forces affiliated fighters in Manbij | Photo Credits: Flickr, Kurdishstruggle

Planning for Post-Conflict Governance in Raqqa

On May 9, as part of the  effort to take back the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), the United States decided  to arm Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). According to representatives of the SDF, once liberated, governance will fall to the Raqqa Civilian Council, an administrative body consisting of predominantly Kurds and Arabs. While Kurdish officials have made assurances that these civilian councils will epitomize the “coexistence and brotherhood of peoples,” such overtures are easier said than done. In Syria, ethnic tensions have existed long before the 2011 uprisings, but have increased in intensity in recent years. Support for joint Arab and Kurdish military efforts alone will not be enough to quell hostility between ethnic groups in Raqqa; the international community must formulate a blueprint for post-liberation governance and inter-ethnic cooperation to obviate the potential for future conflict. As historical and contemporary conflicts demonstrate, ethnic tensions often endure well after a conflict ends, particularly if the root causes of the tension are not meaningfully addressed.

A rough history of ethnic tension

As Kurdish forces have liberated areas of Northern Syria from ISIS control, civilian councils have been established to fill the governance vacuum. These governing structures have been moderately successful. In Manbij, which was liberated by Kurdish forces in 2016, reports claim that the newly formed civilian council consists of a proportionate representation of Arab, Kurdish, and Turkmen leaders. But representative councils alone have not been sufficient to address existing social cleavages.

The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.

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Court Decision Could Allow Early Release of Human Rights Criminals

By: Max Cohen
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – On May 3, the Argentinian Supreme Court rendered a decision allowing Luis Muina, convicted of human rights abuses, to have his sentence reduced. The decision was based on an Argentinian law, known as the “2×1″ law, which mandates that, after an initial two years, every day that a person spends in pretrial detention counts as two as part of the overall sentence. The court found that, under the “most favorable law” legal principle, which dictates that defendants should benefit from laws which would lessen their sentences, that it should apply to him retroactively.

Thousands of people in Argentina protest the ruling of their Supreme Court which could allow human rights abusers to go free early. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

In the week that followed there were protests in Argentina, as many reportedly feared that the decision would free other human rights criminals. However, the country’s Congress quickly responded to the decision by passing a law rescinding the 2×1 law’s protections for those who had committed human rights abuses during the country’s military dictatorship from 1976-1983. Currently there are 350 former military officers who could have potentially benefitted if the decision is allowed to stand.

Critics point to the Court’s decision as an example of how Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s government has toned down its efforts to seek justice for the atrocities committed during the dictatorship. It should be noted that two of the justices who ruled in favor of the decision were appointed by President Macri.

Whether the Argentine government’s solution will work is set to be tested within the next month as their Supreme Court is set to issue decisions on other cases involving human rights criminals.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Fury in Argentina over ruling that could see human rights abusers walk free – 4 May, 2017

New York Daily News – Argentines unite against law helping human rights abusers – 10 May, 2017

New York Times – Argentines Fight Court’s Leniency for Human Rights Crimes – 13 May, 2017

Human Rights Watch – Making Sense of Argentina’s Ruling on Dictatorship-Era Crimes – 15 May, 2017